Seith Ireland

It is no longer possible for the Church to say: 'If we build it they will come.' To stay true to our journey of faith we must continually reach out to the wide complex community in which we live
 
 
In my work in the courts I see the results of the breakdown of not just the obedience of rules but also family relationships.
 
Addictions to alcohol and drugs can lead not just to crime but most significantly to the disruption of families. Indeed the disruption of the family and local communities brought on by abuse of various substances, legal and illegal, and abusive family relationships feeds into the causes of those addictions and abuse.
 
Too frequently the cycle depressingly continues, impacting on children who are
abused and then they become the new addicts and abusers.
 
A common theme, going not just to the cause but also the successful rehabilitation
of the offender and broken families, is the availability, or not, of community
support to nurture those who feel alienated. I acknowledge that publicly funded
social services, and the charitable wings of the Churches, do a great deal of very
valuable work, often without proper thanks and financial support. Their work, while
very necessary is not, however, a sufficient condition to ameliorate the deficit I
describe.
 
What is required for the broken individual and those who feel alienated is the
rebuilding of a sense of belonging which can nurture and succour not only the
individual but the community at large.
 
The Church can, and must, have a vital role in this task. Churches provide, and
sometimes are the only, community meeting place. In fulfilling that function they
can become a focus of community spirit. That spirit is often displayed, too, in that
the church nurtures opportunities and encouragement to volunteer to care for the
elderly, the disabled, working with young people and campaigning on matters of
social and personal justice both here and internationally.
 
Moreover churches can and ought to be centres where all can find time and space
to reflect and be part of a social gathering which welcomes people of all ages and
backgrounds uncritically and unconditionally.
 
That ethos fosters friendships and support networks which is lacking for very many
of those I see in my work. We are not, of course, only an extension of social
services, nor should we be. We are called to our task by the example of Jesus, and
the harmony of the practical with the spiritual in our love of God and His love of us.
 
To members of Cairns what I have written may seem the statement of the obvious,
but I suggest we cannot be complacent. If we are to welcome more members to
Cairns, and into the Church at large, and most importantly to fulfil our life’s
mission of service to others, we have to seek to broaden our social involvement
and loudly proclaim what we do and why.
 
We therefore may through those actions prove a fresh attraction to those who
doubt the relevancy and meaning of the Church in these modern secular and indeed
alienated times. It is no longer possible or indeed a true reflection of our mission in
the Church to say: 'If we build it they will come.'
 
To stay true to our journey of faith we must continually reach out to the wide
complex community in which we live. I suggest we in Cairns, but also the Church in
general, may do a lot of good in seeking to be a community church and to
proclaim that as our mission.
 
Perhaps the wider Church has in recent times, by concentrating a great deal on
issues of personal morality, hidden its true light under a bushel.
 
Seith Ireland is a Sheriff in Paisley, Renfrewshire.